The orange bougainvillea
By Virginia Jasmin Pasalo
MY mom was never a plant poacher, I am. When I see a neglected plant on the street, and it appears to want to be in my garden, I transplant without hesitation. This is the same habit I have in common with my friends, my sisters and nieces who create their own garden spaces. But one day, while we drove around the village, my mother saw an orange bougainvillea overextending itself on the sidewalk, filling the pavement with flowers. She requested me to pick some to be brought home and arranged them with some greens. It lasted on the vase for weeks, and developed some roots.
Eventually, I planted them in separate pots, but the cats and the dogs knocked out the cuttings, except for one that survived despite having been trampled on by feuding alley cats and stray dogs. She watched the plant grow in the pot made from a rubber tire, along with some woody shrubs that shielded it from further disturbance, allowing the growth of roots that established its trunks. Over the years, and due to the natural aging process, my mother slowly forgot about the bougainvillea that continued to grow, but never flowered.
Last year, I watched as the first buds slowly emerges, but they were few and sparse. There was no indication of the drama of its creeping bows as we originally found it on the street, just small clusters of light orange, no different from those I see all over the village. This was not the original color that attracted my mother, or the drama of its cluster of flowers, or the story of its creeping over the sidewalk, which gives the impression of bright orange fresh blooms sunbathing on the street.
Two weeks ago, I was surprised to see the bougainvillea change its color, from pale orange to a bright shade of pink and orange, a unique color that emerged almost by magic. I reviewed in my mind what I may have done right to be bring this miracle to life. And then it dawned on me, it was the same organic material that made the roses of my brother Rod bloom, when we were in Mahabagin. Also, there were many other things I piled over the soil, from coffee grounds, garlic peelings, banana peelings, peelings of every fruit and root crop I ate, feelings.
Yes, feelings. I have the habit of speaking to my plants at various times of the day and night, thanking them for my sanity, asking them about major decisions I am about to make. My sister told me that I may get the shock of my life, if and when, the plants answer me back. If one is sensitive enough, the plants have a definite vibration when you touch them, and as you speak to each one, some of the decisions achieve a certain clarity and quality that is not normally achieved by analysis, no matter how thorough and exhaustive.
I look up again, on the concrete wall where the bougainvillea is framed, brightening the drab space that surrounds it. Even the walls evolve some character, a texture that compliments the entire space, reflecting the brightness of the flowers, in the same way that the moon reflects the brightness of the sun, and evolves its own magical presence. The colors somehow blend into space along with the textures and the elements, and sucks one into the reality of a larger unity that has no beginning and no end, but an overwhelming continuum.
Mom would be happy to see them bloom now, the plant she patiently waited for years to grow, and did not have the chance to see before she flew with the feathers of birds that built their nests on the bougainvillea. She would see her bougainvillea in the color and drama of her knowing eyes, which was orange in the beginning, but had acquired a new shade, and continue to become whatever shade she wills them to be.
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